Members of the 1968 New Westminster Salmonbellies will tell you their success was due to a perfect mix of youth and experience, speed, defensive toughness, and clutch scoring.
Then again, maybe it was the carrots. Yes, carrots. In the National Lacrosse Association final series against the Detroit Olympics, puzzled teammates spotted veteran Ken Oddy munching on carrots in the dressing room. “It sharpens your eyes up,” he said as teammates shook their heads. He then promptly went out and scored five goals that night. Next game, all the Bellies were chomping on carrots in the dressing room, even eating them between periods.
It definitely didn’t hurt as the Salmonbellies scored 101 goals and defeated Detroit in six games to claim the first true coast-to-coast North American professional lacrosse championship. Local newspapers declared the Salmonbellies ‘World Champions’.
This ending seemed far-fetched early on as the veteran Bellies finished with a mediocre 19-19 regular season record. Playing an exhausting 14 playoff games in just 24 days, New West caught fire, defeating Vancouver in a hard-fought seven-game series and then Portland in six to advance to the NLA Final against league-leading Detroit.
A mass call-up of Junior Salmonbellies provided a much-needed boost as the youngsters wanted nothing more than to defeat Detroit coach Jim Bishop and his many former Oshawa Green Gaels, who’d had the Jr’s number in Minto Cup play for years. New Westminster’s Queens Park Arena was packed to the rafters the entire series with over 5000 loud and proud fans. Playing coach Cliff Sepka entered retirement in fine style: receiving a five-minute standing ovation carried on his players’ shoulders after Game 6 and named series MVP. The ever-dependable team captain Paul Parnell led all playoff scorers with 65 points, exactly half of his team-leading 130-point regular season total.
The bulk of this team went on to win two Mann Cup Canadian championships in the next three years.
A celebratory parade for the Salmonbellies in convertibles around New Westminster followed the series, as most of the city seemed to be out on their porches and front lawns, honking horns and celebrating. After, all that was left was to divvy up the winnings. The NLA billed itself as ‘pro’, but ultimately most of the players’ pay was eaten up by commercial flights and hotels. Said Bellies goalie Les Norman: “The girl who babysat our kids earned more than I did!”
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
Team Members: Bill Armstrong (general manager), Ray Bennie, Barry Bolton, Albert Brown (honorary president), Barrie Brownlie, Ian Bull, Dennis DesLauriers, Steve d’Easum, Ron Flaten, Ed Goss, Wayne Goss, Ken Henry, Larry Henry, Ken Jew, Al Lewthwaite, Mickey Lynch, Gord MacNab (trainer), Dave Matheson, Ian Matheson (secretary-treasurer), Dave McDonald (president), Bill McMurchie, Doug McRory (playing manager), Ken Mikkelsen (trainer), Les Norman, Ken Oddy, Paul Parnell, Dr. Hugh Radford (team doctor), Bill Scriver, Cliff Sepka (playing coach), John Shmyr, Paul Shmyr, Wayne Shuttleworth, Dave Tory, Ken Tory, Mac Tyler, Don Wallis, Bill Wilkes, Ken Winzoski